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Holiday shoppers really are a mixed bag. Their attitudes vary and so do their shopping styles.

Despite all the chatter about e-tailing -- more than 10 million neophytes are expected to click onto the Internet this season to order gifts -- some people just have to touch and feel before they buy.

Others swear by catalogs. Or phone orders.

Some start shopping on Dec. 26.

Some won't even think about it for a day or two before Dec. 25.

After talking with local shoppers, the only conclusion that seems obvious this holiday season is that shopping habits are as individual as the shoppers themselves.

Let's allow them to explain:

The Elmwood experience

"Everything I buy I'll do in person," said Gerry Missana, who was strolling on Elmwood Avenue last week. "I want to see the merchandise and then I can reject it immediately. The time I would spend on the Internet, I can spend in a store."

As he was handing over a credit card to pay for a stack of CDs at New World Record, Brian Lampkin explained that he likes to shop where salespeople know him well enough to tip him off about the arrival of the contemporary music he likes.

"I very purposefully shop here because I believe in a vibrant neighborhood and a vibrant city," said the 38-year-old West Sider.

It's the lure of the unusual that brings Lisa Graham to Elmwood, within walking distance of her home. "We've bought at almost every store," she said, while relaxing in front of the new Spot Coffee, which adjoins New World. "Knowing the people who own the places makes it nicer."

In her search for something funky, Kim Wantuck was poking around at Willis & Lowe, the new store on Elmwood Avenue that's been getting lots of favorable comments on the street.

"This is a much better and calmer way to shop," she said, as she considered a jar of Temporary Insanity Taco Sauce. "It's not the wild crowds, and people are friendlier."

Bernie and Karen Farrell of Depew were exploring Elmwood on their annual holiday shopping jaunt, having already checked out Neo and Eminent Design.

"It's a nice break from the mall," said Bernie Farrell. Before this, they'd done some research on the Internet. "But we usually go to a bricks and mortar story to buy," he said.

Walking the mall

Tom Territo of Depew was making his second foray into Walden Galleria on a day last week when it was still possible to nail a parking space without circling the lot.

Though Territo was shopping 10 days before Christmas and making good progress on his list, he wasn't doing quite as well as it seemed at first blush.

"Actually, this list is from last year," he admitted.

Katie Lintner, a 14-year-old freshman from Mount St. Mary Academy, loves mall shopping.

"It has everything," she said. It may be a tough quest: she is looking for a $3 gift for the Secret Santa exchange at her school lunch table.

Slowly strolling through Walden Galleria, Jeanne and Michael Kerl of West Seneca are enjoying their first married Christmas, they said.

"I was spazzing last night," she said. "But usually we do just a little at a time to keep our spirits up. We'll stop and take time out for a coffee or a Coke so we have fun when we do it."

As Jamie Gallagher, 20, and her friend Steve Carluccio, 22, Buffalo State College students, leaned on a railing at the Galleria, they discussed ways to stretch finances.

Gallagher has 10 people on her list and a budget.

"I am spending $20 each in the most creative way possible," she said. Her spending is limited because she got into debt "way over my head" and cut up her credit cards.

Sometimes it's not money but time that limits the shopping expedition.

Carrying two shopping bags, Mary Spacone of Grand Island was on a one-day marathon while her husband watched their three young children. "When you don't have time, you have incentive," she said, expecting to spend about six hours at the task.

Amy Delillo of Batavia had her children, Laura, 2, and Neil, 5, in tow as she shopped Learningsmith's "big sale," which brought her shopping near an end.

She has also successfully shopped in cyberspace. "I was especially pleased with free shipping from Toys R Us and with the savings on sales tax," she said.

Other strategies

"I just ordered some things from Penney's catalog and they were very helpful," said Alice Johnson of Buffalo, who shops for a large family of children and grandchildren.

Lou Watson, who sends gifts overseas, starts shopping the day after Christmas "when prices are down to nothing." "I just use a lot of ingenuity," she said. And some practicality: "I get gift certificates for my grandchildren."

Mimi Beck of the Scoop Shop said she prefers small specialty stores because "the sales gals have been there forever."

"At the malls, they've been there 20 minutes and they don't know the stock," she said.

Bobbi Huber, a teacher at Mount St. Mary's Academy, was outside Borders, a store she calls "seductive" because of her addiction to books.

But she was here for a different reason on this recent day: her first return.

A victim of early shopping and poor memory, she was returning the game Buffalo Monopoly.

"I had already bought one months ago that I'd forgotten about," she said.

Meanwhile, in the video department, Ray Szukala was searching for John Wayne war movies for his son as part of a day of shopping and lunch with a neighbor.

"We don't have anything like this in Fredonia," he said. "I love to shop. I can spend money like water."

In the Children's Department, Lee Cohen of Grand Island was carefully perusing the shelves in search of a pop-up book. While she enjoys in-store shopping, she's a good example of the new hybrid shopper who doesn't hesitate to shop online.

"I have a direct line to," she said.

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